In a recent filing, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., two Florida pari-mutuel operators trying to upend the Seminole Tribe’s gaming monopoly, asked the US Supreme Court for a time extension. They are seeking until February 9 to file a writ of certiorari. This is to overturn a decision from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that upheld the tribal gaming compact, which allows the Seminole Tribe to expand the games offered at its six casinos and offer online sports betting through its Hard Rock Bets platform.
The companies say they need the extension to allow the Florida Supreme Court time to decide on a separate challenge they have filed to invalidate Gov. Ron DeSantis’ and the Florida legislature’s approval of the compact in 2021. They argue that the compact violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Florida constitution by allowing the tribe to offer gaming off its reservation.
In mid-October, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a stay preventing the compact from taking effect. However, the hold was lifted two weeks later. The Seminole Tribe relaunched its Hard Rock Bets platform, and the Florida Supreme Court denied a request to expedite proceedings in its case. DeSantis must file a response by December 1 in the state case.
The federal court decisions have been relatively narrow in scope, holding that the Interior Department, which oversees tribal gaming, only has the authority to approve activity that happens on tribal lands. The companies point to an observation from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that there are “serious equal protection issues” if “the Seminole Tribe, and only the Seminole Tribe, [can] conduct certain off-reservation gaming operations in Florida.”
If the Supreme Court doesn’t grant the companies’ request, they will have to file a cert petition by December 11, 90 days after their DC Circuit rehearing request was denied. This story is still developing, and the outcome of the state proceedings will influence how the case is presented to the high court.